14 Days Photography Tour in Central Tibet
Main Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung and Sera Monasteries, Barkhor Street, Gyantse Pelkor Choede Monastery and Kumbum Stupa, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glaciers, Sakya Monastery, Namtso lake and the Everest
Duration: 14 days
Maximum Elevation: Gyatso La Pass 5,248 meters
Best Time for photography: March-June, September – December
Day 1 – Arrival in Lhasa
You arrive at the Lhasa Gonggar airport or the train station. The airport is 62 km/ 39 miles away from the city, and it takes approximately 1 hour to get to the hotel from there. On the way to Lhasa, you will enjoy beautiful views of the mountains. The train station is located in Lhasa, and we will only need a short transfer to the your hotel.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you might have some free time to spend in Lhasa. Our guides will be happy to advise you on what you can do in Lhasa. After you check in the hotel, you are welcome to explore the city, visit nearby temples, do some shopping, try delicious Tibetan food in one of the local restaurants, or just take a rest.
Walking around Barkhor street can be an excellent choice for your first day in Lhasa. You will join crowds of pilgrims, local Tibetans, and monks circumambulating the Jokhang temple.
Most importantly, on your first day in Tibet, relax, enjoy your day and allow some time for acclimatizing.
Day 2 – Lhasa city tour: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple
We are visiting the two most important religious sites in Tibet.
The Potala Palace was the seat of the Dalai Lamas since the 7th century. First, the guide will take you to the Chak Pori hill to take photos of the majestic Palace. After that, we will go inside and spend approximately 1.5 – 2 hours there. You will see many of artifacts.
In the afternoon you will have lunch. If time permits, you can walk around the Potala Palace and joins many Tibetans.
After that, we will walk towards the Jokhang temple. It was build in the 7th century to display the Jowo Shakyamuni Statue of the 12-year-old Buddha at the time bore the enlightenment. The statue was created at the time when historical Buddha lived. It is elaborately decorated with gold, jewels, and precious stones.
After visiting the temple, we recommend you walking around the Barkhor street.
Day 3 – Lhasa city tour: Drepung and Sera Monasteries
We are visiting the two most important monasteries in the capital.
First, we will visit Drepung monastery which once was the biggest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.
We have lunch after the visit.
In the afternoon we are visiting Sera Monastery. It was founded by Tsongkhapa’s disciple in the 15th century. Nowadays it is famous for monks debate that you can witness. Debates are an essential part of learning and understanding Buddhism. Monks gather in the courtyard in the shade of trees to refine their knowledge.
Day 4 – Lhasa to Samye through Tsedang visit Yambulakhang
In the morning we will drive to Tsedang from Lhasa. We will make a stop on the way by the bank of Brahmaputra River.
After applying for the permit in Tsedang, we will visit Yumbulakhang, the oldest building in Tibet present nowadays and the first fort. It later became a monastery. However, its design is unique for Tibet. After taking photos of Yumbulakhang and surrounding valley, we will visit the fort.
From Tsedang we will head to Samye to visit the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
Day 5 – Visit Samye monastery and climb up to Hepo Ri
In the morning we will head towards the Samye monastery. It is the first monastery in Tibet. The monastery complex is designed in the shape of the mandala to resemble the structure of the universe.
After visiting the monastery, we will go up the Hepo Ri Hill, where centuries ago Padma Sambhava subdued the demons and helped to establish Buddhism in Tibet. From the hill, there is a splendid view on Samye, Brahmaputra river, and surrounding valley.
Day 6 – Samye to Yamdrok Lake
Today we will travel on some of the most beautiful roads in Tibet on our drive to Shigatse.
Be prepared to take photos of the breathtaking views as we go up to the highest point of the day – Gampa La Pass (almost 4,800 meters / 15,750 ft).
Our next stop will be at Yamdrok Lake. It is one of the holy lakes in Tibet, and it is famous for its turquoise colored water.
We will stay in the hotel on the Yamdrok Lakeshore. We will catch the last rays of the setting sun for amazing sunset photographs. When the weather is clear, you will see an incredible sky full of stars.
If you are traveling during cold months, you can also see migrating birds settling near Yamdrok lake during winter.
Day 7 – Yamdrok Lake to Gyantse: Karola Glaciers, Pelkor Choede Monastery, Kumbum Stupa, Gyantse fort
Wake up early in the morning to catch the first glimpse to rising sun for sunrise photos of Yamdrok Lake. After that, you can relax on the terrace overlooking the lake and have breakfast.
We will continue driving to Gyantse. On the way, we will visit Karola Glaciers. These ancient glaciers are over 6,000 meters high. They are capped with ice and snow even in the hottest summer months. You can often see locals wearing traditional dress there. If you are looking for an opportunity to photograph Tibetans, it is a good place to do it.
Finally, we will reach Gyantse in the evening and stay there overnight in a hotel.
Day 8 – Gyantse drive to Sakya
In Gyantse, we will visit the Pelkor Choede monastery and Kumbum Stupa, the largest stupa in Tibet. Inside the stupa, you will find chapels with Buddha paintings and various sculptures. It is one of the few places in Tibet where you can take photos inside of the religious places.
We will drive to Sakya monastery. Sakya is famous for its defensive style architecture with high walls and watch towers on all four corners. After visiting the monastery, we will return to Sakya town. This small town is interesting for photographers because you can take photos of local people and their lifestyle.
Day 9 – Drive from Sakya to Everest. Rongbuk Monastery
Today we will be driving towards Everest Base Camp and on the way, one of the high pass you can see Everest view. We will reach the Rongbuk monastery guesthouse or tent city in the afternoon.
Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world. We will visit it in the evening or the next day in the morning.
We stay in the Rongbuk monastery guesthouse or tent guesthouse overnight.
Day 10 – Drive from Everest to Shigatse
Depending on the weather conditions from the previous day, we might finish some of the activities that we were not able to do yesterday. You can take some photos from the tent camp or relax and stay inside the tent. After breakfast, we will head back to Shigatse.
Day 11 – Shigatse to Lhasa: Tashi Lhunpo Monastery
In the morning we will visit Tashilumpo Monastery, the seat of Panchen Lamas. This monastery was founded by the first Dalai Lama, and it is one of the most important monasteries in Tibet. You can take photos in some of the chapels for an additional fee.
We will take the Friendship Highway on the way back to Lhasa. It is the most direct route and usually takes around six hours to reach the capital. We will make several stops on the way in order to enjoy the views of the Brahmaputra River. In the afternoon, you might have some free time to prepare for your departure the next day.
Day 12 – Driving to Namtso Lake
In the morning we will leave Lhasa and drive towards Yangpachen Hotspring. You can take photos of the steam coming from the hotspring water or you can relax in the hot water pools.
After the hotspring, we will continue driving to the largest saltwater lake in Tibet. Namtso lake is situated in a stunning place, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. There are massive rocks in the lake shore that can catch the sun during the sunset. We will watch the sunset in this magical place.
In the evening we will drive to Damxung to stay there overnight.
Day 13 – Drive to a small town to visit a local family. Back to Lhasa
We will leave Damxung in the morning to visit the traditional Tibetan nomad family. You will see the small settlement with yak tents and Tibetan mastiff dogs guarding them. It is a perfect opportunity to take portrait photos of Tibetans.
After that, we will return to Lhasa.
Day 14 – Lhasa to Airport/Train station departure.
Please prepare in advance for your departure. It takes approximately one hour to drive to the airport and around thirty minutes to reach the train station. We will arrive at the airport three hours before your departure flight if you are traveling to Nepal and two hours before any domestic flight.